By Kevin Van Valkenburg
February 19, 2008
It wasn't anxiety. It wasn't bad dreams. He didn't think, at the time, it was the prospect of swimming morning finals. But each night, he lay awake in bed, staring at the television. His body was exhausted. But sleep did not come easily.
"I usually fall asleep better with the TV on," said Phelps, who is from Rodgers Forge. "I fell asleep every night with the TV on this week, but it was hard. I don't know why. I get to sleep in my own bed tonight, so that's what I'm looking forward to."
Could morning finals have affected him more than he thought they would early in the meet, when he dismissed the kvetching as a non-issue?
"If it is morning finals, then it's something I'm going to have to get used to," Phelps said.
That was part of the reason he entered the meet - to figure out what the obstacles will be leading up to the Olympics and then figure out how to eliminate them.
Sleep issues aside, Phelps completed a grueling triple yesterday (three finals in about 45 minutes) that was really more about improving conditioning than it was about times and victories.
He bested world-record holder Ian Crocker in the 100-meter butterfly early in the morning (51.52 seconds), then swam a very competitive race against world-record holder Aaron Piersol in the 100 backstroke (finishing second by .14 of a second). He finished the day with a personal best in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.57, sixth), probably his weakest event.
But it was a race from Sunday, the 400 individual medley, that Phelps will remember from this event. He didn't swim well, finishing almost eight seconds off his world-record time.
"That IM is still killing me," said Phelps, who trained much of his career at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich. "It's such an important event for us this summer. It's going to start off the meet both at trials and the Olympics. For me to have a successful year, I'll have to start trials out on a good note to have a good 400 IM. If I start off with a bad swim, it's going to be hard to bounce back."
Physically, Phelps says his wrist is fine. But having to miss almost a month of training in November after breaking it during a fall has affected his conditioning. With an Olympic program that will force him to swim 18 times over eight days, Phelps said he needs to be in better shape.
"I've known what I needed to work on ever since I did my wrist," Phelps said. "We're slowly getting it back, slowly making steps in the right direction. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm going to be OK. But if I get off track, that's where we start to get in trouble."
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